The Evolution of Plant Size in Canadian Manufacturing, 1870-1910
Canadian Historical Review, Vol. 75, pp. 557-585, 1994
Posted: 18 Jan 2010
Date Written: 1994
Little is known about plant size in Canada for the 1870-1910 period and more information could enrich our understanding of a number of issues relating to the Canadian economic, business and labour history. More specifically increases in plant size could serve to indicate if entrepreneurs were taking advantage of economies of scale and scope. Caves and Bertram each deal with the issue of plant size in context of a more general discussion on the evolution of the Canadian economy and Caves presents his estimates in an attempt to situate the importance of the wheat boom to the development of manufacturing in the 1900-1910 period-a hotly debated issue in Canadian economic history. This paper presents detailed estimates of plant size for the 1870-1910 period constructed from available census data. These estimate are largely in terms of workers per plant, supplemented by real output per plant estimates and median plant size estimates. The evidence suggest that plant size grew most in the 1890-1910 period. Median plant size estimates further suggest that plant size increases were most significant in the latter period, the decade that coincided with the Canadian wheat boom, and only during this period was labour productivity growth of any significance. These findings suggest that the wheat boom, increases in average plant size and increases in labour productivity were statistically related, but in no way prove that they are causally related. Further research is needed to ascertain the role increasing plant size played in the growth of the Canadian economy.
Keywords: Plant size, Manufacturing, Canada, 1870-1910, Labour history, Wheat boom, Labour productivity
JEL Classification: N61, O14, L60
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation